Posts Tagged With: vegetables

Window Box Gardening

This year has seen a great deal of change, as I moved into my own place, which gave me both more and less space to grow my herbs and vegetables. I’m now in a first floor flat with no actual garden so instead of my small container garden I now have a collection of window boxes to work with, along with some ikea hanging baskets in my kitchen.

I wasn’t sure if my herbs would survive their summary removal from a container on the patio into a window box, so I gave them a few weeks sitting in my living room to settle before I put them back outside again. Apparently they liked my living room a bit too much as within a month of being outside my kitchen window they were universally looking like the saddest herbs on the planet.

It’s not been a good year for herbs in general chez moi. All the herbs I’d bought for my kitchen planters have died a death. In fact the only thing I’ve planted in my hanging kitchen planter that hasn’t keeled over is an Aloe Vera plant. Which nearly keeled over in the other direction as I’ve had to turn the planter round so that its leaning toward the sunshine doesn’t tip the whole thing out on the floor!

One thing that has been an unmitigated success is my bay tree. Having been a small but resilient little container tree on the patio for the last couple of years, when I moved somewhere without a garden I planned to return it to my parents care. (Their own Bay Tree that mine is an offshoot from, had died a death the previous year.) It was a shame, my friend M noted while helping me move, it looked good in my living room. After some consultation with green-fingered friends we concluded that it should be fine as long as it got plenty of light, so I found it a sunny spot, watered it regularly and hoped for the best. Reader, it thrived. It’s got at least a foot taller, I had to re-pot it into a bigger tub and it’s never looked healthier.

This summer I tried out window box gardening for the first time. Between spring arriving late and being generally busy with the move I didn’t actually get any seeds in the soil until June. I planted a row each of carrots and spring onions in one box and a row each of radishes and pak choi in the other. I didn’t have high hopes for them but I reckoned it as better to try then just look sadly at those empty window boxes all summer. Yet to my surprise, the sunshine and showers that marked June meant that my radishes and pak choi burst into enthusiastic life to the extent of needing thinned out. My carrots looked pathetic and my spring onions never broke the surface – I suspect bird interference – but I began to have hopes about salad.

However, come July we had a heat-wave, and I returned from a week away for work to find that my pak choi and radishes had both shot beyond rescue, so all I got from that box were some rather pretty yellow and pink-purple flowers. After last year’s spinach disappointment, I suspect salad leaves are not going to be my thing.

However, to my surprise, the carrots rallied. I’d decided to grow a miniature variety and miniature they certainly were. But I did at least get enough carrots to do something with. I was able to get enough to eat boiled with dinner one night, and during my sushi experiments baby carrots proved to be the perfect size to quarter and use as batons. Also they may have been tiny, but they packed a disproportionate punch of taste. I’ve never eaten carrots with such flavour so despite their unimpressive showing, I’ll definitely be giving them a second try next year.

I have had one last success in my window box gardening. I noticed the other day that my chive plant – previously thought dead – was showing some fresh green shoots among the dead husks. So I’ve carefully cleared away the dead stems and other debris and it looks that I might yet have a chive plant – and who knows I’ve seen that mint plant come back from worse in previous years…

Categories: growing my own, nablopomo, new skills | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Ten for Ten

So, the news has broken, that ideally we should be trying to have ten portions of fruit and vegetables each day instead of the previously recommended five. Now, even as a vegetarian who comfortably gets their five a day most days, I thought, that’s a bit steep. Yet I remember as a kid, discussing with my mum the whole 5 a day thing and her telling me that actually it was meant to be much higher – 7 or 8 portions – than that but they picked five because they thought that was a reasonable amount that wouldn’t cause people to revolt. And really, at 80g a ‘portion’ that’s not all that much once you’ve weighed some actual fruit.

So I decided to do a fun project over the first ten days of this month to see how easy it was/how much I needed to change my diet in order to get my 10 portions a day. I should add, that I made this decision at about six this evening, while waiting for the oven to heat up and contemplating how much baby sweet corn I would need to have with my dinner to count as a portion, so I’m starting from a reasonably neutral position of a normal workday. Also that I didn’t weigh my portions until dinner so I’m making rough guesses on those.

I was actually surprised by how few portions I ate today. In the process of researching how much an official portion is I made some frustrating discoveries. The guidelines encourage diversity in your fruit/veg consumption, so multiple portions of the same thing don’t count. Potatoes aren’t a vegetable! (Though sweet potatoes are…) Kiwi fruit are only half a portion each – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten more than one kiwi in a sitting; one is the perfect size to tuck in your lunchbox or to chop on your cereal. Which all meant that the big bottle of homemade smoothie I took to work with me today – I’m recovering from the cold so I’ve been making a lot of smoothies lately – with its two kiwi fruit and three pears – only counts as two portions. Thank goodness for my kale and blue cheese soup at lunch, I’ve no idea how to count a liquid but I reckon between the giant leek, three sticks of celery and half a bag of kale, there has to be at least 2 portions per serving.

I was also surprised how much baby sweet corn I did need to make up the portion. I’d picked up a packet of reduced baby sweet corn and mange tout on my way home and ended up using half of each to make up my 80g portion. (Apparently what those packets contain is essentially a portion of each veg.) However, when I actually came to eat my veggies, there did seem to be an excess of them, so clearly I’ve just been skimping on them in the past!

All in all though, today’s eating was pretty average and I still managed seven portions of fruit and veg over the course of the day. It’ll be interesting to see how much better or worse I do once I start thinking about them properly.

Dinner - ten for ten challenge

Categories: being veggie, challenges | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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